On Work Schedules

Not a glamorous topic, but if you’re not getting writing done, I can almost guarantee that you have No Schedule.

On the Myth of Free Time

If you’re waiting for a free hour or two to write, you’re on a course for failure. There is no free time; it was all committed long ago. And if you’re on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, you are seriously running a time deficit. The world with all its attractions and obligations will always expand to fill 24 hours every day. So free time–we have none. But we have available time that can be borrowed from somewhere else. Alas, this is the harsh reality. Something has got to go. TV, reading blogs, shopping, brushing teeth. No, keep that last.

A Tailored Writing Time

The picture here is me my at my keyboard during my scheduled writing time. All right, me and my cat. But I’m not going to tell you my schedule. For you, it’s irrelevant. I can’t tell you the best schedule to have because it must suit your circumstances and preferences. Morning, noon, night. Long session or short bursts. You know what you like.

My suggestion: carve out your best writing time and stick with it. If you’re just starting out, it may help to write in a paper notebook. Sometimes it’s easier to give yourself permission to write draft material if it isn’t on the computer screen. If you feel empty, write lists of topic, or journal. Talk to yourself about recent books you’ve read and what you loved about them. If you’ve started a piece of fiction, warm up to the next scene with a quick edit of the last one.

Be Determined but Forgiving

Be flexible, within limits. If you’ve made some progress, let yourself quit early. If you haven’t, stick with your commitment to those hours. For most of us, that means keeping distractions at bay. No social networking, no answering the phone, no email. I like to set a page count for the week. If on the last writing day of the week I haven’t met it, I extend my writing block until I’ve met my goal.

Remember that it may take you a long time to warm up to your writing session. Don’t give up because you are daydreaming for the first fifteen minutes. Don’t chastise yourself because you got nowhere. The next session could well produce a startling insight or terrific piece of writing. (Never extrapolate current circumstances about your writing into the future. The only thing that’s fairly certain about your writing future is that it will be different than today, and different than you imagine.)

Your success as a writer depends in being faithful to a work schedule. Isn’t that a relief, that it isn’t about raw talent?

2 Responses

  1. Pure gold, every word!

  2. Kay says:

    Spoken by one who really knows! Thank you, Alyx. Glad to be following you on Twitter, btw. Trying to figure out how it all works.

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